Let's Stop Hoping our Friends are Okay
2019 was the year of me practicing transparency. Wow, it was tough. Normally, I’m someone who hides in a corner when I feel down, I never tell anyone bad news, I keep the sad aspects of my life private. I felt that if I was sad around others, it would be an inconvenience for them. Perhaps I would bring down their day, or just make them uncomfortable. But consistently hiding our sadness... really what good does that do? I am 100% certain that the reason we have actual water streaming from our eyes, that our eyes swell up, our face flushes, and we get unbelievable sniffles and sometimes even absurd hiccups when we cry is because crying is something that is meant to be noticed. It is a red flag for someone to reach out to help.
In 2019, I told myself if a friend or family member asked how I was, how my day went, I wouldn’t just say “good”. I would tell them the truth. (Because well, honestly I like the truth when asking someone that question.) I wouldn’t give the question an alleyway for my complaints, but I would be honest. If I had the best day ever, I’m not holding back, and same goes for if I fell on my face a few times that day. From someone who always wanted to be so strong, that was an extremely vulnerable thing to do. Surprisingly, 2019 happened to be the hardest year of my life, and I did something I wouldn’t normally do, I reached out to people in the hardship.
What I Learned From Being Vulnerable
2019 was a year of tremendous growth and by growth I mean, imagine the process it takes to make wine: First the grape has to harvested, then crushed and pressed, then fermented, and so on and so forth. It's not a pretty process. At the end of this past year I was left in a completely different position, form, and shape, than I was in the beginning. Thus, growth. This crushing and pressing process was the time I decided to turn to people I knew for help, guidance, vulnerability. And I am here to testify:
being vulnerable with your friends and family not only gives you comfort and support but actually bonds the relationship like never before.
Coming into 2020 I have some of the most real friendships with people than I ever have before, simply because, we are terrifyingly vulnerable.
But by previously doing the opposite and holding back my hardship, hiding it from discussion, this not only created isolation and disconnect, but in fact hindered my friendships and familial relationships. My parents never knew what was going on with me, neither did my sister nor my brothers for years. None of my friends knew... in fact that was the essential reason I created this blog, because I felt so uncomfortable to explain what I had been through to so many people, and when I did have to explain it, I didn't want to repeat it. So, if you want to know, go read my blog! This blog communicated what I went through effectively without me stumbling over my words, and in a way, it protected me from the dreadful, emotionless response, "Aww, I'm so sorry about that."
Vulnerability Shows True Colors
Now, something surprised me. Remember when I said, like a minute ago, that vulnerability brought me my truest friendships? Well, it also showed me which friendships were built on weak foundations. When I reached out to many friends through the hardest year of my life, instead of getting the call asking if I was okay, or coming over to my place to console me when I needed it the most, I often got “keeping you in my thoughts” “sending you good energy” “love you❤️” “hope you’re okay”. And scrolling on Facebook the other day, I noticed, I'm not the only one receiving these responses. Many of us have lost loved ones and in sharing the sad news with the world, these are the comments we get. All are nice responses, sure, but what do they do, really? I’m not saying this to diss my friends at all, I love everyone in my life. But something I learned was that these are very common responses, that, well... mean nothing.
In my times of grief I took it to multiple groupchats. Only about three people from those multiple 10+ people groupchats, throughout the year, personally reached out to me. And, some people didn't respond at all. These three people that reached out consoled me, listened, gave me advice, and prayed for me. The others? I guess they “kept me in their thoughts”? I mean, what does that even mean. C'mon let’s get real people. What is merely thinking about me going to do? And are you sure...? Because if you’re like any other distracted human in this day, you’ll think about that person in the hardship for 2 seconds before clicking away onto your next app. Or “sending me good energy” how does someone even do that! What!
Check on Your Teammates
So often we are quick to place ourselves before others. They’re going through something tough, but wow, I’m crammed for time! They’re going through something tough but I’ve got this huge exam that I just have to study to get an A on! They’re going through something tough but I’m going through something worse!
Mark 9:35 says:
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
In this day we are all in the race to be first. We all are grinding in our side hustle. We have a voice that must be heard, a face that must be seen, and an account that must have followers. But have you realized that usually the unverified accounts with the most followers, have an extensive following? We have to stop asking for more, and we have to start giving more. We need to stop asking for attention, and we need to give our attention. We can't expect to receive followers, if we aren't following others. We're all in the same race. If you don’t get out of your stubbornness on “your place in line”, the truth is, you may lose a teammate. Stop looking ahead to see when you cross the finish line, you have to look back and check on your teammates.
The Discomfort in Listening
It struck me as odd to see that a lot of people were just uncomfortable with listening to other people’s grief as they were to talk about their own. And I believe, like the old me, most people are afraid to talk about their own hardship because they’re afraid most other people would respond with the meaningless “Aww, I'm so sorry about that.” just as they do. They would feel inconvenient, uncomfortable and a nuisance, just as I did.
But these feelings do not come simply from sharing your story, they come from the response from others.
In regard to the response, I think those in line for one are simply afraid they might say the wrong thing. So, instead of saying anything they mean at all, they leave it at "love you ". But here's a revelation: oftentimes, people in sadness aren’t looking for advice, they’re asking for an ear. We should have no fear in saying the wrong thing, because saying nothing, or not stepping up to the plate is worst of all.
Share The Burden
Galatians 6:2 says
“Share each other’s burdens and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
Share each other’s burdens... wow. That seems scary doesn’t it? That if we step up to the plate we may get hurt too? We may cry with them? We may feel their distress? But isn’t it so much better to emphasize with a friend rather than keep a distance? There are people who are afraid to say the wrong thing, then there are people who do not lend a hand because they are too afraid they might become affected. But let’s get real here, if they are truly a friend of yours, aren’t you affected nonetheless? If you truly care for a person, their sadness becomes yours. In this act of sympathy, we can turn it into empathy by sharing the burden. Don't let your friend carry it alone, or it might crush them.
Oftentimes when we hear of horrible news we say, “I wish they would’ve just talked to me.” But would you have listened? Would you have seen the text, put down the textbook and called them to talk for an hour? Would you pull a U-turn to go 30 minutes out of your way to go to their place? Would you stay up till 3am, knowing you have to go to the gym early in the morning, listening to them? Or, like most people, would you decide their problem isn’t as important as your priority: their problem isn’t as important as your exam, as your errand, as your body image.
I say let’s make 2020 the year we stop “hoping” our friends are okay, and let’s actually ask if they are. Let’s inquire about each other’s lives and listen to every minute, good or bad. Let's party in the good and binge eat ice cream in the bad - together. Saving lives happens one friend at a time. Are you that friend?